“It’s a natural for paramedics to endorse it.” Chuck Premer, media coordinator and paramedic at Rockford Ambulance, referred to a series of classes coming up at the Rockford Ambulance facility at 8450 Shaner Avenue.
The public is invited to sign up for free waltz lessons taught by the Emergency Medical Technicians and staff of Rockford Ambulance. According to Premer and his co-workers, the dance lessons are appropriate for all ages and are a very healthy form of exercise.
“This is a starter course, anyone can take it. If they can walk, they can dance,” said Su Gray, Operations Supervisor at Rockford Ambulance. Gray demonstrated some moves—lifts and swings—but pointed out that the program is actually very simple and waltz is much easier to learn than people might think.
Paramedic Andy Andresen began the program at a different location and has been teaching and competing in dance for years. He is associated with Silvestro Studios dance center at Plainfield and the Beltline, where he teaches. He is happy to offer his time for free in these dance classes.
“We offered it for firemen, EMTs and police and it was kind of popular,” Andresen said. He said it is important for rescue personnel to keep in good physical shape and first came up with the concept as a fun way for first responders to keep fit. The classes were such a hit with those who took them Andresen thought it might be a good idea to open them up to the general public.
Rockford Ambulance’s CEO Roger Morgan heard about Andresen’s idea to offer it through the Rockford office and was happy to approve the plan. The classes are free and will be open to the first 20 couples that sign up. Someone without a dance partner is invited as well. “We have plenty of EMTs here to help. Even Chuck has some real nice moves,” Gray stated.
Andresen said dance television shows have increased interest somewhat, but not as much as he’d like to see. The enjoyable activity is a fun hobby that couples can do together. He pointed out that it is an activity that can continue on into later years, unlike many sports or other physical activities. “You can have some hot Latin dancers at 85 years old,” he said. “It’s also excellent for balance.”
Gray said even those with no dance background will find it easy to learn the moves. “It’s not at all frightening.” She said it is common for twice as many women as men to sign up, but men should see this as an opportunity to shine.
“The guys start out and don’t do as well as the women at first,” Andresen pointed out. “Then after a couple of weeks their testosterone kicks in and they begin to do very well.”
Andresen’s background in skating, ballroom dance and teaching result in a very structured course. “We don’t just throw them out there and tell them to dance,” he said. “No one would have fun if we did that.”
The team is joined this year by Cuban-born Raul Betancourt, who said people in Cuba don’t learn to dance, they are born knowing it. He has been in the United States three years and is willing to show off some moves. He has been teaching ballroom dance five years. He pointed out that dance is not only physically rewarding, but emotionally healthy as well. “When you are dancing, there is no stress, you are concentrating on dance. You have this hour to relax and forget about everything else,” Betancourt said.
The classes begin Tuesday, October 27 and run one to one and a half hours long. The series will be six classes once a week. No equipment is required, just comfortable shoes, such as tennis shoes or slippery shoes. The experts at Rockford Ambulance will take care of the rest. “If anyone does manage to get hurt doing this, they are in the perfect place,” joked Premer.
“A lot of people are having a hard time, losing jobs or just worried about their jobs or finances,” Gray said. “This is our way of helping out. We hope they will have a great time. When I’m dancing, you can’t get the smile off my face.”
To find out more or to sign up for the classes, call Andresen at (616) 633-9557.